But you were in the protag’s shoes for the train ride? I’m a big fan of the HL1 train ride intro, it had a very specific purpose in establishing mood, tone, and setting for that game, as well as reinforcing the point that Gordon Freeman was just supposed to be a guy doing a fairly routine, albeit high tech, job who is then pushed into a sequence of events well beyond his norm.
Having the player actually experience his commute, chit chat with colleagues, putting on his work outfit etc. all helped establish a base point for the characters life and experience within the head of a player, far more so than just an unplayable intro cutscene ever would - “[into voiceover guy]: Gordon Freeman was just a normal guy, but then one day things took an unfortunate turn…”
It’s obviously not a transferable technique as it was very specific to that game, but in my view it shows how much more a player can feel involved and how much more bandwidth a developer can have to tell a story if they allow the player to experience something rather than just throwing some exposition at them outside of play. It goes back to that old saying:
Tell me, I’ll forget
Show me, I’ll remember
Involve me, I’ll understand
Cutscenes absolutely have their place, and can be hugely effective (see Thief), and indeed there are many genres where a cutscene is probably still a great way of telling a story through a game, but it does feel like they can be a bit of a crutch for storytellers/developers, and lets face it even in this day and age they are still frequently not very well put together in terms of writing, pacing, direction etc.